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Company Snapshot: Harland & Wolff Group plc

By John Simpson

Although Harland and Wolff is now a much smaller business than it was as a major shipbuilder, nevertheless it has now established a continuing diverse enterprise using the facilities formerly used for shipbuilding.

The principal activities are described as including shipbuilding, heavy engineering, ship repair and the design, construction and conversion of floating production and drilling vessels for the energy industries.

Annual turnover reached a peak in 2006 and has since fallen. However, the significant business feature has been the continuing profitability of the local company which is still a subsidiary company in the Olsen group. The operating and pre-tax profits in 2008 seem to have been the most satisfactory in this decade.

A critical feature influencing the balance sheet has been the need in 2008, to make a large adjustment to the funding of the large defined benefit pension scheme which still underpins the pension position for nearly 4,000 people (usually former employees), either as pensioners or deferred members of the scheme.

The pension fund assets at the end of 2008 were valued at just under £100m compared with £121m in December 2007.

In 2008 the actuarial calculations, under FRS 17, showed a large write-down of over £10m in the pension fund assets. This calculation impacted on the balance sheet value of shareholders funds since it more than offset the positive contribution of post-tax profits. In 2006 and 2007, the value of pension fund assets had increased.

Employment in the group has varied from year to year but, in 2008, averaged 177 people.

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